Thursday, January 21, 2010

101 Things: Number 99: Fitting saddles

As an owner of a "special" fitting horse, I've become more educated over the years about saddles, bridles and fitting the pony's equipment in general. I've spent countless paycheques to fiddle with various aspects of her equipment and finding equipment that fits and works for the two of us.

It's worth every cent too. A well fitting piece of equipment makes our job that much easier. A bad fitting piece of equipment will make any ride a living hell. 

Well fitting saddle is a basic necessity in any sport. However, it seems to be paramount in dressage due to the purposeful, physical development of the equine athlete. The dressage horse changes at every stage of development, to help with that growth, the saddle must change with it.

There are also a plethora of saddles out there, in an infinite amount of seat, tree and flocking combinations to suit tastes and needs.

First the basics: a saddle should be functional.

It should fit the horse and you. It should allow you to keep your position without fighting for it, and allow no restriction in the horse when moving. It should be stable without being static, and should fit the horse while in motion.

Trilogy Saddles has an excellent guide here.

Work with a qualified saddler. Sit in as many saddles as you physically can. Ask your fellow boarders (and your coach!) about theirs, and see if you can't sit and tryout. Take notes on what you felt when you rode in them. Jot the features you liked, and the features you didn't like. Jot what your horse liked and didn't like and how he reacted. If you can have the ride taped.

Educate yourself on flocking. Know the type of wool that is being used, whether it is a long fiber (better quality, doesn't pill), or short fiber (bad, pills and creates pressure points). If there isn't wool, what is inside that saddle? Foam? Air? Aunt Mildred's wig? How does it effect the horse?

Finally, take care of the investment. Clean regularly, condition frequently. Reflock and check the integrity of the tree yearly (more often if you fall off, or the horse has crashed on it).


Golden the Pony Girl said...

Oh yes saddle fitting. There really is an infinite amount of knowledge out there on saddles. So much to learn! I also have a pony and have had the unique challenge of fitting him. On a budget. It was very difficult. I am still not completely satisfied on how I feel in the saddle but since it fits him so well I kind of settled for it. What is your opinion on knee blocks/rolls and dressage saddles?

Kelly said...

I think knee rolls and blocks are a personal preference.

i liken it to bras. Some people like a lot of support, some people like nothing. With knee rolls, as long as it doesn't interfere with the rider and serves their purpose, they are there (or not there) for a reason.

For me, it depends on the saddle as to what would work. I usually go with a medium roll that is more along the upper part my knee.

Val said...

I also own a horse who is not the "average" shape or size and at 5'1", neither am I! I did not realize how poorly my previous saddle fit until I discovered that it was much easier to ride bareback than with the saddle. I tried many saddles, read everything I could find, and consulted a saddle-fitter. We now have a wonderful saddle, which almost makes me want to cry because I rode for so long in one that did not work for either of us.
I do have an opinion about large knee blocks. Unless the rider is the ideal (average?) size/shape, the block will prevent the rider from achieving a neutral seat and balance by blocking his or her position. I prefer a very moderate knee roll.